Today (17th), there was a building fire in Osaka. Climate change is causing catastrophes such as forest fires. There is a theory that tree planting is the most effective for climate change. According to a paper published in Science in 2019, planting large numbers of trees is the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gases. As for tree planting, as introduced above, Japanese people have made various efforts in developing countries. Let me introduce two Japanese people today as well.
Michiko Inukai (1921-2017), a writer who worked hard on refugee relief projects and support for developing countries, was promoting the “Midori Ippon (One Tree)” movement. Based on this concept, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) started a tree planting project in September 1981 as part of support for Afghan refugees who fled to Pakistan in the wake of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979.
Refugees had been logging trees around refugee camps to use them as firewood for cooking and heating, but deforestation causes ecosystem destruction, global warming, increased floods and droughts, and desertification. If the land was not regenerated, it would be difficult to secure food for refugees and other residents of the host country.
Michiko Inukai’s grandfather was Tsuyoshi Inukai (1855-1932), who served as prime minister. Tsuyoshi Inukai advocated disapproval of Manchuria, an early conclusion of the Shanghai Incident, and advocacy for parliamentary principles.
From the memory of this incident, Michiko worked hard to study to eliminate the nationalism of selfishness from Japan (“Asahi Shimbun, Tensei Jingo”). “Thinking on the border” is a simple expression of her thoughts.
Prime Minister Inukai wrote the word “恕” to Michiko a few days before he was assassinated in the May 15 Incident and taught him what it meant.恕 means “to understand and be considerate of the feelings of others.” Michiko practiced that way of life. There is an anecdote that when Michiko gave a candy ball to a Korean who came to a dog farm to pick up a toilet, tears spilled from his eyes (Nikkei Business Online).
Tsuyoshi Inukai supported Sun Yat-sen’s Xinhai Revolution, and along with Tatar religious leader Abdurreshid Ibrahim (1857-1944), Japan considered solidarity among Asian nations and liberation from European powers. He was a person who thought about removing the border wall of Asia, such as creating an opportunity for the establishment of “Asia Gikai (Asian Justice Association) and such an idea of his grandfather had a great influence on Michiko’s life.
Mr. Masanao Umebayashi (1933-2020), an emeritus professor at Mie University, who contributed to the stability of Thai society by planting trees in the same way as Ms. Inukai. In the soil science major, he came up with the idea of cultivating plums instead of poppy fields in northern Thailand, which forms part of the “Golden Triangle”. Plum is easy to process and is suitable for highlands. Manao (Thai lime) was planted at low altitudes. He also taught farmers about processing techniques, and produced a variety of plum and manao products.
Mr. Umebayashi grew up being told by his father that “making the grouper (nearby) easier” is the real work. About 22,000 plum trees and 14,000 manao trees were planted between 1995 and 20 years, and 20 million yen was invested for planting. In recognition of his achievements in friendship and cooperation with Thailand, he received the Thai Friendship Award in 2000 and the Thai Foreign Minister’s Award in 2008.
Mr. Masanao Umebayashi (right) handing plum saplings to the village mayor (left) = 1997, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand